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Illinois Commerce Commission is a broken system

Illinois Chamber Commerce President Doug Whitley
talks about state's business climate during press conference Monday Feb 20 2012 AurorChamber Commerce downtown

Illinois Chamber of Commerce President Doug Whitley talks about the state's business climate during press conference Monday, Feb 20, 2012 at the Aurora Chamber of Commerce in downtown Aurora. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 29, 2013 11:50AM

There is a contrary view to your editorial [“We need ICC to keep a lid on utility bills,” Tuesday] regarding the flurry of legislative efforts to sidestep the Illinois Commerce Commission. Simply put, the ICC has become an obstruction to investment, growth and commerce. It is an inefficient, lawyer-driven, regulatory bureaucracy that thrives on delay and dispenses uncertainty. It is a broken system. More importantly it has lost its vision as a non-political agency responsible for assuring Illinois has safe, reliable and plentiful energy, water and telecommunications services. It should be renamed the Anti-Commerce Commission. Here’s why.

The agency is still trying to control markets and pricing as if there had been no Internet revolution. The telecommunications world is so fluid, a consumer can change instruments and providers with ease. Retail electricity marketing is sufficiently deregulated and competitive that even municipalities have gotten into the business. Natural gas and electricity pricing is so dynamic customers have enjoyed an extended era of favorable pricing to the distress of some of the very companies AARP would have your readers believe to be villains. Meanwhile, “green” energy production and energy conservation initiatives have achieved mainstream status.

The current rub is really about the commission’s unwillingness to embrace technology, modernization of distribution systems and adequate financing to assure the people and industries of Illinois are ahead of the curve. ComEd’s adoption of “smart grid” technology on the electrical grid holds great promise for not only ComEd, but also for companies, communities and residential users. The commission had the opportunity to embrace the technology and encourage swift introduction of modernization. It whiffed.

The situation is very similar for Peoples Energy. Much of the gas distribution network in Chicago was installed 100 or more years ago. The old cast-iron pipes are prone to fail. When gas pipes fail, there are catastrophic incidences. Peoples Energy wants to replace the pipes. Even at 100 miles a year, it will take nearly two decades to replace the pipes. There should be no dispute that it must be done. And perhaps more swiftly than proposed.

Chicago’s infrastructure needs repair replacement and modernization. The same is true for the water, sewers and transit systems. These are expensive undertakings. It will require many years and cost billions to achieve. If we want to take pride in having a world-class city, we must invest in world-class infrastructure. It requires vision, a multiyear commitment and an acceptance of the fundamental principle that “there is no free lunch.”

Doug Whitley, president & CEO,

Illinois Chamber of Commerce

Put feral cats to good use

How about we compromise on the cats versus birds issue? Let’s have a program to capture all the feral cats and train them to go after only those cursed Canada geese that have forgotten how to migrate.

Thanks to the abundance of easily accessible garbage and the people who actually feed the dumb critters, they nest near any body of water and hang around all year long. Their poop accumulates at the bottom of ponds and lagoons, coats parking lots and sidewalks, and becomes a natural hazard on gold courses. Efforts to scare them off with dogs and swans have had minimal success, and hunters have to give them a pass.

If cats on the prowl could begin to reduce their numbers, they would be providing a public service.

Dan McGuire, Bensenville

NRA doesn’t represent gang-bangers

This letter is in response to Roger Simon’s column “Public Intensity needed to beat NRA” in today’s edition, where he makes the statement that Wayne LaPierre and the NRA have “blood on their hands” and that their “gun mania has led to slaughter.”

I’m sure your paper would have been quick to point out if any of the shooters of the people mentioned in the “1 dead, 9 wounded in shootings in Chicago” article of the March 24 had been NRA members. Instead, that article uses the word “gang” four times, highlighting an important but overlooked distinction confirmed by my own experience responding to 9-1-1 calls for over 20 years — the NRA doesn’t represent criminals and gang-bangers.

Criminals and gang members are the ones involved in the killings of children and young adults, not NRA members. Criminals and gang members are the ones buying and selling stolen guns, and their families are the ones who typically “straw purchase” them, and they certainly don’t wait the 60-plus days for FOIDs (as mentioned in an article in your paper today) like Illinois’ patient NRA members.

And despite the suggestions, gang members aren’t the ones supporting concealed carry in Illinois, as they already are doing it in violation of numerous state laws. Such vitriol and contempt from the left toward members of a group that is fighting to preserve a constitutional right is why, after many years of hesitation, I joined the NRA.

If you want to talk about “blood on hands,” why not consider the law-abiding citizens who have died in Illinois, unable to protect themselves against those same criminals and gang-bangers, due to the “reasonable” laws you support, Mr. Simon?

Douglas Winston, Waukegan

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